Sunday, 13 October 2013

just_a_girl By Kirsten Krauth (Interview & giveaway)

Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot’s caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.

just_a_girl is a novel about being isolated and searching for a sense of connection, faith, friendship and healing, and explores what it’s like to grow up negotiating the digital world of facebook, webcams, internet porn, mobile phones and cyberbullying – a world where the line between public and private is increasingly being eroded.

Today I am thrilled to welcome fellow Australian author, Kirsten Krauth. She talks about her writing journey and and shares some tips. Kirsten is also generously offering copies of her gritty debut novel, just_a_girl, for readers to enjoy.

 Kirsten Krauth

Tell us a little bit about your writing journey.
I feel like I’ve been writing my whole life! I loved writing stories when I was a child. In my 20s I started working for RealTime arts journal, and enjoyed experimenting with style when reviewing films, digital writing, performance and visual arts. Eventually I started dreaming of a novel and began a Masters in Creative Writing at University of Sydney. This transformed into my first novel, just_a_girl.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
I like the quiet times of contemplation, the excitement and energy of first drafts, and the wonderful idea of researching. I am happiest when I am really focused on doing something creative.

What is the hardest aspect of writing?
At the moment I am dedicating one day a week to writing, and I struggle even then to get to it! I have a lot of ideas but it’s getting the time to sit down and realise them. I’ve got two small children and don’t want to miss out on the day to day of their lives. So I’ll need to wait a bit longer until I can start working on the next project.

How much research goes into your storyline?
For just_a_girl, I spent a lot of time online (and on the train) listening to the voices of 14 year old girls to get Layla right, seeing what they were up to on Facebook, and hearing how much they divulged to friends. For Tadashi, a Japanese-Australian man, I was interested in his relationship with a love doll, so I contacted a number of people from the lovedoll community. They were reluctant to talk at first, but once they realised I wasn’t trying to send them up, but understand the appeal, they were quite keen to chat. Margot is a single mother who is part of an evangelical church, so I watched a lot of Hillsong on TV and the internet, getting the inflections and passions of the movement, and spoke to a number of people who had grown up with the church.

How do you plan your storyline?
I don’t. Much. I prefer to let the story unfold as I take the characters somewhere. I don’t begin plotting until quite late in the process. I like to be surprised by developments.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
Of course! I don’t know how you could write, otherwise. I’m always on the lookout for stories, mine, my friends’, my family’s, that I jot down for later use. While the characters are never really based on me, they share certain situations, experiences, feelings, ideas or occasional traits. I think my first drafts are fuelled by emotions and experiences that I haven’t yet dealt with. Then in later drafts, I pare some of this back, but the essence is left.

Tell us about your publications/awards if any.
just_a_girl is just about to be sent off for the first round of awards. It’s been exciting with the advent of the Stella Prize, for example, to have a number of awards that a first time novelist can be considered for. I judged the Young Australian Novelist of the Year for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013, and there were so many terrific entries. It also taught me a lot about what works and doesn’t work so well in fiction.

What is the most surprising things about writing /publishing that you have learnt?
That having the book published is only the beginning (rather than the end-point). It’s hard to envisage the amount of work involved once the book is out. There’s a great deal of selling and marketing for the writer to do. It’s good to plan early!

Do you have any tips for new writers?
Emily Maguire said to me, ‘write hot, edit cold’. This is great advice. Do all your early drafts with passion and energy. Don’t look back. But after this process, take a break, and go back with your editorial cap on. The changes you need to make will be obvious…

What are you working on?
I’m just about to start research on my next novel. I’m hoping it will be a blend of contemporary and historical fiction (I always like to mix up genres!).

Other than writing, what else do you love?
I love slobbing on the couch and watching US TV shows (Homeland and Friday Night Lights current faves), going to the cinema, watching my kids jump on the trampoline, seeing bunnies and kangaroos from my office window, reading a book that excites me, eating dumplings, a good pair of boots, and browsing in op shops.

Who is your favourite author and why?
Haruki Murakami. I love his whimsical, strange style, his lost characters and his refusal to follow any rules when it comes to fiction. I love him so much my character Tadashi reads his book, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, on the train – and certain parts of just_a_girl are influenced by him.

If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert isalnd, what 5 books would you throw in your bag?
Lorrie Moore – Collected Short Stories
Haruki Murakami – Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Brenda Walker – Reading By Moonlight
Shaun Tan – The Arrival
James Joyce - Ulysses

What five words best sum you up?

 How can we learn more?

Follow on twitter at @wldcolonialgirl
I have just finished reading just_a_girl and would recommend it for parents of adolescent girls who worry abour what goes on in their daughter's lives. But more importantly i would recommend it for those who don't. You can read the whole review at Goodreads. Best of luck with it Kirsten!

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  1. I think it's tough for kids to balance school and friends. I am a teacher now and we tend to think that school is just about the learning and everything else is getting in the way. But then I remember myself in high school and think about the fights with my boyfriend, the freeze-outs with my friends, the blow-ups with my family . . . . all of that seemed just as pressing as school work at the time.

  2. Loved meeting another pantser! It's so exciting to see where your characters will take you. The surprises are what keep me writing. Sorry about only one day a week to write, but I'm there with you. I grab a few minutes here and there and try to make sense of all I get down in a connected few hours. Good luck. The book sounds great.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful review on Goodreads, Melissa! Jennifer, yes, it is difficult to balance, especially if you don't have parental support (my character Layla is quite isolated, as her parents figure out their own problems). And I've only just discovered the word 'pantser'! I hope you enjoy the book. I hope to get more writing done soon!

  4. I think it's finding where you fit. Once you do that life just gets a whole lot better.

  5. Yes, Mary, but I think I only discovered that in my 30s, when I finally started doing some creative took my teens and 20s to work it out. I think my 40s are going to be a wonderful decade.

  6. The description of this book scares me a little since I have a teenage daughter. I believe she has better judgement than this character does, or at least I hope so.

  7. Oops, didn't see the question above. I believe the hardest part of being a teenager today is probably knowing who to trust (internet aquaintences included).

  8. I think trying to still go out with friends in between school work. I think a lot of teenagers worry about their exams and don't see their friends because of it.

  9. Dealing with self-esteem. I know I had a problem with it when I was a teen.